Anyone can learn to turn

Beth Rumsey Photos
ABOVE: Gerald Williams, left, teaches John McKittrick, right, the "ABCs" of woodturning: A- anchor the tool on the toolrest, B-use the bevel to make the C-cut. LEFT: Betty Willoughby disovered the true beauty of the wood as she learned how to turn a bowl at a meeting of the Southeastern Indiana Woodturners at the workshop of Williams at Holton.

Beth Rumsey
Staff Writer

There were about a dozen men and one lone woman gathered at Gerald Williams’ workshop outside of Holton on a cold January morning, all with one goal in mind: to learn how to turn wood on a lathe and create beautiful works of art.

Williams, along with founding members Ron Cruz of Whiteland, Charlie Martin of Aurora and Tom Green of Osgood, started the Southeastern Indiana Woodturners, a local chapter of the American Association of Woodturners, as a way to promote the art of woodturning, teach those who want to learn and to exchange tips and ideas with other woodturners.

According to Williams, before the start of the SIW he would travel nearly 64 miles to attend a meeting of the American Association of Woodturners. He wanted to form a chapter to allow fellow woodturners to meet locally.

Williams explained that anyone can attend their meetings on the second and fourth Mondays of the month at his workshop. There you can learn first hand how to use a lathe that turns the wood and the awls that strip away the wood bit by bit until it reveals the beauty held inside.

As one who has been seriously turning for about five years, Williams says that students are first taught to turn a bowl because it is the most difficult project. After learning the techniques for turning a bowl, the skills can then be used to turn other projects such as ornaments, pen blanks, rolling pins or spindles.

Those who attend the meetings come from a variety of backgrounds and skills from the retiree who is looking for a hobby, the wood worker who has built a number of cabinets or structures but never turned wood, to those who have seen demonstrations at local fairs and wanted to learn.

For example, Betty Willoughby, grew up watching her father create things from wood and has loved wooden articles ever since. “Who would have thought that an ugly piece of wood could be turned into something so beautiful?” she asked.

Willoughby explained that it is her goal to turn a Christmas ornament for all of her children and grandchildren for their trees.

Tom Green never had time for hobbies until retirement in 2002. “Then I felt totally lost,” he said. He discovered a new hobby and a new skill after meeting Tom Cassidy.

John McKittrick is a retired contractor learning another way to create beautiful things from wood. Ron Albrecht has been woodworking since 1972 and started turning about five years ago. Here he will learn tips and techniques from fellow woodturners.

Southeastern Indiana Woodturners participants have the opportunity to join the American Association of Woodturners in Minnesota. The AAW is an international, non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of woodturning by providing education, information, and organization to those interested in turning wood. It encompasses those woodturners of every skill level.

The AAW projects have included Bowls for the Hungry, where wooden bowls are auctioned with the proceeds going to local soup kitchens. Another project included pens with wooden barrels given to those in the military.

Those who want to learn to turn can join Williams and his fellow woodturners on the second and fourth Mondays from 9 a.m to 4 p.m. at his workshop in Holton. Men and women of all ages are welcome.

Free wood stock and tools are provided to allow everyone “hands on” experience. Contact Williams at 812-689-6545 for more information. To learn more about the American Association of Woodturners, visit